U-17 Division 1 League Semi-Final
Seneschalstown 5-07 St. Peters Dunboyne 2-14
Often in sport, games are decided by the individual brilliance of one man, or a particular duo do most of the damage. In last years All Ireland final it was Cormac Costello who ultimately proved to be the difference between Dublin and Mayo when he was sprung from the bench, for the Barcelona soccer team in recent years, it's been the dynamic trio of Messi, Neymar and Suarez deciding games with flashes of magic. But on Friday night, the performance of every player to a man is what drove the Seneschalstown Under 17s over the line in a pulsating encounter. Willing to run an extra five yards, picking out an unselfish pass, intensity high up the field, these were all trademarks of the Seneschalstown performance who were deserving winners over their south county opponents on a night when the rain fell for the duration of the game making handling quite difficult.
Many in attendance would have noticed before the game that there was a couple of positional changes on the Seneschalstown team from the previous game, most noticeably the deployment of Alan Mulvany as a corner back.
However, right from the throw in Seneschalstown were in the face of the Dunboyne players, not giving them a minute's peace when in possession and this was evident in the very first play as Seneschalstown forced a turnover when Dunboyne overcarried. The free was worked up the pitch to full forward Dylan Keating and he laid the ball off to Jamie Kirwan who nicely popped over from fourteen yards out. From the resulting kickout, Dunboyne broke down the field and levelled the game for the first and what would prove to be the only time of the game with a point from centre half back and Meath minor Sean Ryan. In the 5th minute, Seneschalstown made their first major move on the scoreboard, a breaking ball was picked up by Mulvany, who was pushing up on the Dunboyne sweeper and playing as an extra forward. From there he found Keating with a dinked pass inside. Daire Finnegan had built up a head of steam from midfield and found himself in space, and Keating in turn found him and the Meath U17 panellist kept his cool to slot the ball beyond the onrushing goalkeeper. Two minutes later and the supporters of the side clad in yellow could barely believe what they were seeing when the umpire was reaching for his green flag a second time. After putting the Dunboyne defence under serious pressure, Seneschalstown forced the visitors to cough up possession. Dylan Keating pounced on the loose ball and tried to pick out Jamie Kirwan who was making his way towards goal. Initially, it looked as if the pass was over hit but somehow, Kirwan managed to jump and poke the ball towards the goal despite being outnumbered by defenders, the O'Neills eventually trickled into the net.
Keating was causing havoc early on, and he too got his name on the scoresheet with a well taken point after some excellent work out the field from corner forward Jason Lyons. With Alan Mulvany pushing up on the sweeper, it meant there was little space for the Dunboyne defence to manoeuvre and it was him who forced the sweeper into fouling the ball and winning a kickable free for his side. Midfielder Sean Commons duly stepped and added to his sides early, and rapidly increasing advantage.
However, disaster struck for Seneschalstown soon after when Finnegan was forced off the field due to a reoccurrence of a troublesome knee injury. The returning Ciaran Mongey came into replace Finnegan, with Joe Moore moving to the centre of the field. This also coincided with Dunboyne settling into the game, and they kicked the next four points of the game, three from play and one from a free after an indiscretion from one of the Seneschalstown defenders. At this stage, the hosts were struggling to get the ball back up the pitch, but they soon had a couple of goal opportunities against the run of play. Firstly, lively corner forward Liam Maguire made a goal chance out of nothing with his sheer pace but his fierce dipping shot went just wide of the post. Seneschalstown were not to be denied for long however as they were awarded a penalty by referee Liam Reddy after Jamie Kirwan was clattered from behind when trying to catch the ball. The deadly accurate Keating made no mistake from the spot as he sent the ball to the keepers right low into the corner.
The next score of the game also went the way of leaders as Alan Mulvany started and finished a move which included Joe Moore and Jamie Kirwan when Mulvany split the posts from 25 yards. Dunboyne got the next score of the game from play but Seneschalstown responded in the best possible way - with their fourth goal of the half. Sean Commons badly skewed a shot which Ross Mullen kept alive before the ball went wide. Mullen then made a bit of space for himself and shot. The ball was deflected by a combination of defenders and the sting was taken out of the shot. However, the ball broke kindly to Cillian Gormley who had the simple task of showing how lethal he is from a yard out and tapped into an empty net. Keeping it tight and contain the visitors is what you would have hoped Seneschalstown would have done between then and the half time whistle. But credit to Dunboyne who finished the half like a house on fire. Firstly, the kicked a point and then after a high ball wasn't dealt with fully, the corner forward unleashed an absolute rocket of a shot into the top corner of Brian Boyd's net, giving the Yellow Furze custodian no chance with the finish. Still though, Seneschalstown could not have complained with their lead of six points at half time - Seneschalstown 4-04 Dunboyne 1-07.
The resolve of this Seneschalstown team was going to be tested to the absolute maximum in the second period, and for long stages it was about soaking up pressure from the town outfit and trying to launch counter attacks. Three minutes into the half had elapsed when Dunboyne pointed a free from their county minor Liam Byrne and this was the start of numerous times they started eating into the Seneschalstown lead. Two more points from play for the visitors had the lead reduced to just three points. Shortly after the hard-working Maguire had another goal chance, but once again he was foiled by an impressive save from the Dunboyne goalie, this time with his feet. This was the second time that the keeper had pulled off a smart stop as he denied Jason Lyons with an excellent reflex save midway through the first half. Fourteen minutes were gone in the second half and Seneschalstown had still not added to their account but this was to change very quickly.
Alan Mulvany excellently picked out Dylan Keating with a pass which split the Dunboyne defence and Keating took off akin to Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt. He carried the ball a good 30 metres before hitting a snapshot off his right foot which was blocked. However, despite falling towards the end line, Keating managed to grab the ball one handed and make space for himself on his lethal left foot and squeeze the ball below a number of bodies and into the net. Seneschalstown led by 6 again. Over the next 5 minutes, Dunboyne started to get on top, and kicked a couple of points to reduce the arrears. Then Seneschalstown were in trouble as powerful midfielder Byrne raced through the Seneschalstown defence after a momentary lapse in concentration and again left Boyd with no chance in net. Boyd though was to have a major say in the outcome of the game shortly afterwards.
When Dunboyne created another goal chance, the ball looked to have cannoned off the Seneschalstown crossbar and out for a sideline ball to the hosts. However, referee Reddy awarded Dunboyne the sideline ball. Boyd obviously got the faintest but the most important of touches to tip the ball onto the woodwork. On 51 minutes, Seneschalstown kicked another score to lift the stream of pressure heading towards the Rock Sportsfields construction site as Joe Moore stepped up to the plate for his side. Firstly, he kicked the ball high enough for it to have snow on it when it came down. Crucially though it went over the black spot. Three minutes later, another point came Moore after Jamie Kirwan sold a beautiful dummy reminiscent of a certain Colm Cooper in front of an anxious Seneschalstown dugout. Dunboyne responded with a brace of point of their own, but it was the hard-working Keating who would have the last say on matters when sent the home crowd into delirium as he drove over from 30 metres out.
It was only now that Seneschalstown could begin to think that a place in the Division 1 final was well within their grasp. It was important that they shut up shop, and not let Dunboyne in for any goal chances.
They had one last half chance with a long range free, but it was to the left of the target and wide and all round relief for the home side. As the resulting kick out was landing in the open arms of Joe Moore, Liam Reddy blew his full-time whistle.
Scenes of adulation not seen in Fr. Tully Park for many a year was there for all to see, and many of the supporters stayed on long after the full-time whistle to congratulate a team that has remained unbeaten throughout their Division 1 campaign, and qualify for the clubs first underage Division 1 final in a long, long time. They now have the chance to add silverware to the collection when they take on local rivals Navan O'Mahonys or St. Colmcilles in the final.
Seneschalstown: B. Boyd, A. Mulvany (0-01), C. Hickey, F. Hall, P. Finnegan, J. Moore (0-02), S. Carey, D. Finnegan (1-00), S. Commons (0-01, 1f), J. Kirwan (1-01), R. Mullen, C. Gormley (1-00), L. Maguire, D. Keating (2-02, 1-00 pen), J. Lyons.
Subs Used: C. Mongey for Finnegan, Finnegan for Maguire